A Voyage to Franklin Park

1. The Outlet’s own Julia Jackson takes a night off to read at Franklin Park. 2. Emcee and Franklin Park reading series creator Penina Roth.

You can’t be in two places at once, or in Julia Jackson’s case, you can’t be in one place and do two things at once. Miss Jackson is The Outlet’s longest-standing and most dedicated coverer of Franklin Park’s monthly reading series, but on Monday she became the covered, as one of their featured readers. The theme of the night was travel and voyages (or something like that, I lost my program) and wayward wanderers came from near (Crown Heights) and far (New Jersey) to bask in the incredible heat of a crowded room in July.

First reader Steve Carr confessed his nervousness at the start, despite calling Franklin Park “basically [his] living room.” And then, just as if we had been sitting in his living room, enjoying our cans of Porkslap, he regaled us with stories of meeting girls on the Greyhound, a deep and profound fear of flying, a visit to Oceanside, California, and finally a poem about leaving an ex-girlfriend lots and lots and lots of voicemails (hey, Steve, better than texts — at least voicemails are free to receive).

1. Steve Carr performs and shares a barrage of voicemails left for an ex. 2. A rapt audience endures the heat.

Franklin Park reading series founder and emcee Penina Roth’s introduction of Julia Jackson was so glowing and so true that it would make you wish she had penned this coverage instead, so skip that and let’s move on to her reading of a story she introduced as having made a past audience “visibly uncomfortable, so if that happens to you, I’m sorry.” Past audiences must have been pathetically sensitive, because what could be discomforting about a graphic boarding school suicide attempt involving a whole lotta blood and Tabasco sauce? Julia, quit reading for crowds of nancies: I foresee a wildly successful debut novel (perhaps along the lines of fellow Franklin Parker Alison Espach?) and similarly popular CW spin off.

Vol. 1 Brooklyn founder and general internet protégé Jason Diamond followed with a funny introduction about getting a 4-year-old drunk at a Passover seder (unofficially titled “Why my Crown Heights friends don’t invite me over that much anymore”). He read an even funnier still story that he had distilled from an attempt to write “the greatest shitty young adult novel of all time,” and finished with an unfunny but beautiful excerpt from his forthcoming book about the history of Chicago.

1. Jason Diamond describes what happened when a 4 year-old drank his “grape juice.” 2. Past and present Brooklyn College MFA students Ellen Adams, Elissa Goldstein, and Heidi Diehl.

There was an intermission, so the crowd could stay “hydrated,” and then Victoria Brown, whose gorgeous voice and perfect rhythm make her among the best readers I’ve ever heard (nevermind that while the rest of us were glistening with sweat, Victoria was veritably sparkling), read from her debut novel Minding Ben.

Novelist and maverick (in the real way, more Top Gun, less Palin) James Boice closed the show with a reading from his brand new The Good and the Ghastly, set 1,000 years in the future in a world where towns are named Wal-Mart, and every road is “Visa interstate this number” or “Visa route that number.” The future, y’all, it’s out there.

1. Victoria Brown reading from her novel Minding Ben. 2. James Boice, author of The Good and the Ghastly and Top-Gun style maverick.

All in all, Franklin Park was everything I dreamt it would be: fun, funny, and unpredictable, with sufficiently cold beer (something not to be taken for granted). Julia may be almost famous, but I’ll go best-of-five in Rock Paper Scissors with her for future coverage of this tried and true gem series.

1. The goods on display. 2. And the group.

–Kai Twanmoh is a regular contributor to Electric Dish.

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